Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust
Twenty Years of Magic
Dame Ellen MacArthur has an emotional reunion with one of the first young people to ever sail with her cancer charity.
When Dame Ellen MacArthur was invited to go sailing with children recovering from cancer in France in the late ‘90s, she immediately knew the UK needed something just like it.
It was whilst with A Chacun Son Cap, the French charity which takes young people with cancer sailing off the coast of Brittany, Ellen realised sailing, the biggest love in her life, could be transformational in so many other incredible ways too.
So, in 2003 the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust launched by taking five young people from Great Ormond Street Hospital sailing on the Isle of Wight, with the intention of inspiring each of them to believe in a brighter future at a time when life was particularly challenging.
One of those young people was Maxine Duggins. At the time, she was 10 years old, and took a short break from her treatment for Ewing sarcoma – a type of bone and soft tissue cancer – to attend this first ever Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust adventure.
When Maxine and her mum arrived, Ellen saw them struggle to say goodbye. Letting go after being by each other’s side through cancer was near impossible. Ellen wondered: ‘Are we doing the right thing?’
Now, two decades on to celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Trust has brought Maxine and Ellen back together for an emotional reunion, reflecting on the life-changing difference being supported all those years ago made to Maxine, and the brighter future she’s lived ever since.
Hope After Cancer
Talking with Maxine twenty years on was deeply moving for Ellen, who had taken a photo of Maxine around the world with her when she broke the record.
“The memory of Maxine on that trip remains one of the most vibrant of all the Trust trips I’ve been on,” she said. “It was so profound, and I was there from the moment her mum dropped her off to the moment she picked her up. I saw that transformation. It summed up everything the Trust is about, it really did.”
Maxine returned for eight more adventures with the Trust, including 2007’s Round the Island Race and the charity’s epic voyage around Britain in 2009, having found somewhere she could rebuild her sense of self.
“The Trust gives you back a bit of your personality. School was on pause, so my life was just treatment. You go on a trip, have this new experience, learn all different kinds of things and you’re able to share that. Now there was another layer to my life that wasn’t about cancer, it was about silliness and fun.
“It gave me hope there is life after cancer, still fun to be had, still enjoyment. This isn’t going to be my world forever. There are still good times.
“I was eager to go on the next trip as soon as possible. I always remember it being something positive. You make life-long friends.
“Because I was a child, I didn’t necessarily recognise the positive changes that were happening to me immediately. It’s something you look back on and realise there has been a profound transformation. I don’t know if I can quantify how the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust has impacted my life now, but there’s no doubt that it has.”
Since 2003, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust has supported 3,137 young people like Maxine. For every new boat sold, Ancasta donates the cost of a young person to go sailing with the Trust for the first time.
For more information visit ellenmacarthurcancertrust.org